Dave recently left P&G to serve as CMO of Rockfish Interactive, one of the fastest growing U.S. digital agencies, #3 on AdAge’s Agency A-List and winner of the inaugural AdAge Small Agency of the Year Award. He’s also co-founder of The Brandery, a seed stage venture accelerator in Cincinnati, which just graduated its first round of start-ups. He also maintains a blog as a “a dialogue on the changing landscape that marketers are faced with today.”
BC: You went to work at P&G right out of b-school. Conscious career-path choice?
DK: During college I actually thought I was either going to start my own company or join a record label after graduation. That all changed in the summer of 2001 when I interned for Aware Records (a division of Columbia Records) in Chicago. It was an amazing experience but at the end of the summer, Gregg Latterman, who started Aware, gave me some great advice.
He said that the best advice he could give me was to think of my first job after college as the next step in going to school. He said that if I wanted to be marketer, I should go to the best place in the world to learn marketing, which was obviously P&G. Luckily at the time, Miami University was one of the core campuses that P&G recruited from so I had the opportunity to do just that.
What are the three important things you learned at P&G?
(1) Treat people with respect, as business is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s amazing the trust built by quickly responding to an email or showing up on time to a meeting… and how quickly trust can be lost with the opposite behaviors (2) Have a childlike curiosity for learning - you need to get outside the halls of the office in order to do your job. (3) Don’t be afraid to take risks. We are trained as marketers and part of that is trusting our “trained gut” when it comes to innovation and risk.
Why did you leave P&G this year?
I left P&G for what I think was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Rockfish is a remarkable company that I’ve had a chance to know for several years. They have a special culture, one that reminds me more of a Zappos than of the typical agency. More so, it’s a culture that combines a passion for technology, with a driven entrepreneurial spirit. So I had a chance to join a company that I deeply respect, and do so by opening an office in a city that I love with some of my closest (and smartest) friends in the industry. That was a chance I just couldn’t pass up.
What’s the biggest change in last two years for interactive agencies?
The biggest change with interactive agencies has been watching their business move from the fringe to the center of brand marketing plans. As a result, interactive agencies are no longer having to fight to justify digital spends but instead having to define their unique role versus other agencies who are trying to get a share of the digital dollar.
Crowdsourcing is increasingly popular. Is it a worthwhile part of the branding process – or a distraction from agency acumen?
Crowdsourcing has a definite role in the brand-building process, but that exact role is still evolving. Models like crowdSPRING, Brainrack (disclosure: a Brandery company) and Victors & Spoils are definitely leading the way but I think we still have a ton to learn about how to best leverage the wisdom of the crowds.
How important – really - is social media in digital marketing beyond the basics of having a presence on those platforms?
Social Media by itself is a tactic, but Social Engagement can be a real strategy for brands if leveraged in the right way. At Rockfish we talk about the Digital Ecosystem where brands need to determine the right tools for meeting their brand objectives. Having a presence on those places is merely the start.
Which has been a bigger factor in the Groundswell phenomenon – technology or demographics?
Technology without a doubt since demographics have had only slight changes in the past decade. Technology has been the enabler that has made it easier for people to connect, share and influence.
Will mobile be the predominant platform in the near future?
Yes but mobile itself will be redefined in the process. Right now when you talk about mobile, people just think about the mobile phone. In the coming years, it will be about portable media of all kinds including smart phones, tablet computers, and much, much more.
Can digital/mobile hold the ‘sexiness’ of TV?
Of course. TV might have Mad Men to reinforce the ‘sexiness’ but now digital has its own movie with The Social Network.
Best brand story of 2010?
Old Spice. I’m of course pretty biased since it’s the work of not only my former company, but also some of my close friends on the Old Spice team. But seriously, there is a reason that the Old Spice whistle is my ring tone. They started with a great advertising campaign and leveraged its success to create one of the most innovative social media campaigns that we’ve seen. Along the way, they showed all of us the power of a truly holistic campaign across touchpoints (TV, Twitter, YouTube), combined with the faith to follow their marketing gut.
How many new ideas can Rockfish Labs develop and not distract from its core agency role?
Labs is at the core of what Rockfish does and as a result, it is intertwined with the core agency. I personally believe that our partners get better work from our team because of the entrepreneurial experience that our employees get through labs. We know what it is like to create and run brands, enabling us to know what its like to be in the shoes of our partners.
Any predictions about the next digital ‘tectonic shift’?
As I talked about earlier, I think it is going to be the continued rise of portable media / mobile. When people suddenly have information and entertainment at their fingertips, anytime, anywhere, it changes the game completely. As one small example, think about the impact on retail. Just a few years ago, retailers had all the power of what people saw in a store. But now with the click of a button, you can get product reviews, compare prices and ask questions before any purchase. That has a dramatic impact on how brands think about marketing in the future.
Words of advice for those coming up behind you?
Take time to earn your stripes. Cut your chops at the best places you can find. Master a real-world craft. Remember we all have long careers, so make your battles short.